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Personal Finance > Five Tips
Cheap travel
5 Tips: Finding cheap travel to great vacation spots.
November 19, 2004: 3:55 PM EST
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Looking for great getaway travel deals now that winter is on its way? Well, they're not hard to find.

The recent turmoil in the airline industry has been a boon for travelers. While prices in many big markets have fallen, there's nearly always a better deal just around the corner.

So it pays to be a cheapskate. Here's 5 Tips for snagging a great vacation on the cheap.

1. We mean really low...

Some of the sale fares we've seen on airline Web sites: New York to Orlando or West Palm Beach on JetBlue is $69 each way. New York to Santo Domingo or San Juan is $79 each way.

Yesterday, American Airlines slashed fares on all southern Florida routes by up to 85 percent in order to compete with JetBlue's service. American has also been offering flights from cold weather spots like Hartford, CT and Indianapolis to Miami for $158 round trip.

United is offering discounted fairs from cities like Washington D.C., Chicago and Pittsburgh. You can fly from Washington to Los Angeles for $119 each way or from Chicago to Dallas for $99 each way. From Pittsburgh to Aspen it's $127 each way. Like we said, it's cheap!

2. Know where to get a great deal.

The Internet has become a beacon for travelers who want more -- and want to pay less. Places like, and spend big on marketing so you'll come back and book with them.

But Terrance Zepke, author of "The Encyclopedia of Cheap Travel: 1,000 Companies, Consolidators, Agencies, and Resources," says there are some terrific, far less traveled Web sites out there that can get you great deals on accommodations.

Quikbook offers spa retreats, golf getaways and resort vacations and more at over 75 destination spots in the U.S. and Canada. They don't charge booking or processing fees and they're happy to help you book by phone if you call their 1-800 number. For more information, go to (or call 800-789-9887).

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Gerri Willis shares five tips on how to travel and save money at the same time.

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At there are hotel deals available in 200 countries at as much as 70 percent off. Hotel Reservations Network ( has great discounts at luxury properties in U.S. and worldwide. Zepke says they're special because they offer availability at peak times when other booking services may not.

For the beach lover, at TourScan ( travelers will find a clearing-house for all-inclusive deals to the Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda.

If you're the last minute, footloose and fancy-free type, you can save really big. There are lots of Web sites that specialize in spur of the moment deals. At you'll find deals on airfare, hotels, complete vacations and cruises worldwide. At there are vacation packages and cruises with flights departing from major cities worldwide. ( has lots of last minute weekend deals, sports adventures, cultural excursions and resort stays with flights departing from major U.S. cities. is a clearinghouse for different resorts in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Hawaii. The site has a 90-day ticker that tracks the best resort deals for the next three months. At there are deals on vacation packages and cruises. The site typically offers savings of 40 to 70 percent.

3. Get the best rate.

It's always a good idea to shop around on the Web, but it's not the only way to go. Hotel companies like Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, Radisson and others are now offering "best rate" guarantees. So, by booking direct you can get a great deal.

There's another advantage to booking direct. By dealing with the hotel or airline, you can build loyalty. That's important because loyalty can pay off in upgrades.

According to Joel Widzer, author of "The Penny Pincher's Passport to Luxury Travel," loyalty can be easily leveraged. "If you're in a lobby full of convention attendees who are only in the area for a long weekend, and not likely to return, stress your loyalty to the person helping you. Tell them that you love the hotel and you'd like to come back," he advises. You'll be the perfect choice for an upgrade.

While we're on the subject of upgrades, here's one more thing. Widzer advises timing your arrival so you avoid business travelers. They're your competition for good rooms and upgrades. Hotel guests usually check out between 12 and 2pm. Business travelers tend to check in at 5pm and after. You should check in between 3 and 5pm so the good rooms are still available.

4. Forget the usual suspects.

Why limit yourself to hotels? Zepke advises thinking outside the box, "How does a villa in Cannes sound?"

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At, your searches aren't confined to traditional lodging spots. When you enter your dates and travel location, you'll find cut-rate deals on rental houses, villas, condos, apartments and hotels. At visitors can get discounted rates for condos, villas, houses and apartments in Europe and the Mediterranean.

And if you're looking for last minute deals on rooms or rental properties, check out for deals on country inns, chalets and guesthouses.

5. Get cheap wheels.

Flights and hotels aren't the only things on sale. There are great deals to be had on rental cars too. has free upgrades on Hertz & Thrifty rental cars nationwide through the end of the year.

Alamo has free upgrades in selected European countries like France, Ireland and Austria. If you feel like getting away for a three-day weekend, the site is offering a 3-Day weekend deal for $69 also through Alamo.

Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News. Willis also hosts CNNfn's Open House, weekdays from Noon to 12:30 p.m. (ET). E-mail comments to  Top of page

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